The COVID-19 pandemic has undone multiple areas of our everyday life. If you’re looking to rebuild, or just to take this as a moment to reach for your dream, we’ve come up with nine steps to get your idea off the ground and transform your idea into a real, viable, and functional startup business.
The effects of the pandemic can be felt in almost every aspect, from our children’s schooling to our lack of social interactions, but particularly in the way we work. With it has come a time of great uncertainty and potential job losses for many. But it has also provided a window of opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Some of the largest corporations known today were born during times of crisis. General Motors, IBM, Disney, Toyota, and HP are but a few giants founded during or in the aftermath of economic downturns such as WW2 and The Great Depression. Airbnb came to life during the global financial crisis of 2008.
As such, if history has proven anything, it’s that if you’ve been struck by inspiration during this time with a genius idea for a company, you should get going. Yet how exactly do you turn your idea into a completely sustainable business? It has been done before, but several organizations have taken a special journey that can not be automatically duplicated.
If you’ve been playing around with the idea to start your own business, now is the perfect time.
1. Figure out what problem your business will be solving
If you remove all the PR and marketing bells and whistles around a company and look only at its primary function, you will find, in the successful ones, that they solve a problem. Right now, you’re totally obsessed with your idea, and you’re likely focussed on what it does, but perhaps not what problem it actually solves.
As the world hurdles to an increasingly digital future, starting your own business is easier than ever. Many companies think they have solutions, but what definitive problems are they genuinely eliminating?
Amazon, for example, resolved how costly and unpleasant e-commerce used to be. Microsoft, Google and Apple reinvented the benefits of cloud storage and its applications. Today, these companies have far more customers (and revenue) than their brick-and-mortar competition.
The bottom line is that all successful businesses, products, and services improve the lives of their customers by eradicating their problems.
2. Do the research and find your niche market
You’ve undoubtedly read that 50% of companies fail within their first year and that around 80% fail in their first five years. There’s no need for you to become part of those statistics. Imagine who your potential customer is – the first move is to figure out where your concept falls into the global ocean of customers.
All of your potential customers have different habits and lifestyles, yet they all have to face the same challenge in order to find your business compelling. Find out where your idea fits into the market and people’s lives. Startup owners should also spend some time getting to know their competition as soon as possible.
Leaders often start up their company in an industry where they have a lot of expertise, but marketing outreach is a must for everyone irrespective of how knowledgeable they may or may not be. Get a sense of your competition and the likely demands of a newcomer in the space. If you build something that nobody actually wants, your business won’t ever get off the ground.
Perhaps by building your headquarters in a particular state, the company would be able to run better. You will only know if you study the market. Your solution must be seen by the right people if you want to gain any traction.
3. Build a support network
Have you ever noticed how very few successful startups were founded by only a single individual?
Having strong and knowledgeable business partners has a number of benefits, especially when you’re first getting started. Being associated with high-profile successful partners can also lead to a stronger online reputation, not only for yourself but also for your upcoming venture as well.
They can function as support, be an audience for your ideologies, and back your ideas. Aside from creating a team, having good relationships with other startup or business owners will give you valuable insights.
Find experienced entrepreneurs and spark discussions and other interactions with them. Pick their brains! People enjoy talking about themselves, so they’re usually glad to share what they’ve learned from their expertise in starting a new business.
4. Create a financial model and plan around your finances
Since you’ve done your market study, now you have to find out if your idea will be financially viable. Create a “bottom-up” financial model based on how you develop, market, and sell your product or service to an individual customer.
Doing this will give you greater insight into how your company will operate. Then create another “top-down” financial model to validate your predictions, analyze the scale of your business, and to determine what targets you need to achieve to make a profit.
Once you’re happy with your financial model, start preparing the first phase of your operations. The strategy is easy – your ideas have to get out there. Map your mission, goal, keys to success, target market, competitive advantage, and specific tactics for discussion purposes between your team and mentors. It ensures those concerned are on the same page and ready to continue in the next steps.
5. Determine the source of capital for turning your idea into a startup
When it comes to startup funding, success is measured in time. Any startup that is not profitable is left with a limited period of time before the money runs out and they have to quit. Not enough money means that your idea will not get airborne.
Typically, to get airborne would mean that you then have to progress to a clearly higher level: if all you have is a concept, you will have to progress to a working prototype. If you have a prototype, you need to launch. If you have launched, you’ll gain significant returns.
Entrepreneurs don’t usually set-out for the money alone, nevertheless, money is always needed to get a company off the ground. Self-funding, money from people you know (friends and family), credit cards, or loans are some attainable sources of funding.
A more supportive outlet might be angel investors and venture capitalists looking to back up your project for a slice of income and some space for decision-making, depending on the sum you need. Whatever source(s) you want to get or aspire to, note that each has its own rewards and risks.
6. Be capable of pivoting
The feedback obtained from your early adopters will help you discern what elements of your product are being favored and which elements receive the most attention from your audience. You may find that their feedback is completely different from what you had envisioned and been expecting.
This can trigger you to “pivot” your business strategy, or alter a crucial part of it. Changing course doesn’t mean you’ve utterly failed; in fact, it may help you avoid significant failure or problems you may have confronted further down the line.
Pivoting doesn’t automatically mean giving up everything you’ve learned. Instead, it enables you to take what you’ve learned and use it for your new path. You’ve taken one path to reach a goal and got lost; pivoting is simply recalculating your route and finding another path to get there.
7. When turning your idea into a startup, consider the MVP
The steps to startup success differ from expert to expert. The steps seem simple, decide on a name, figure out your hosting platform, build a website, write a business plan, find a mentor, but hardly any experts mention the importance of your MVP.
The MVP, or minimal viable product, gives you the validation you need before you take your concept into the market. After all, if you create a product that consumers don’t like, it will be of no benefit to anyone.
Minimal does not automatically mean “basic.” The idea is not to create a product that is minimal, but a product that is already viable and has space for improvement. It’s how early adopters really get on board to use the product and can give you the input to make it better for them – if they like it.
8. Make security a priority before launching
Many new online startup owners overlook the importance of having a strong cybersecurity plan, believing that only larger corporations are targets for hackers. This could not be any further from the truth, and if anything, smaller sized businesses are actually a more common target specifically because of their weaker security measures.
Assuming that your business will be fully, or at least partially online, which it absolutely should be, then cybersecurity will need to be one of your top priorities if you want to truly ensure that your business idea, financial information, and customer data are safe from hackers. Always start by identifying and protecting your endpoints with endpoint security, and follow that up with implementing biometric security, data encryption, and training your employees in digital security.
9. Stay optimistic
It is said that misery loves company. It is up to you to keep any form of misery out of your brand new company and that includes looking after the wellbeing of your employees as well as your own mindset.
Self-doubt and questioning whether something might go wrong will just keep you back and prevent you from taking the necessary risks.
People are going to doubt your ideas and your future success, but if they don’t trust in your ability to resolve it, they reinforce their cynicism within you. It will make things easier when you finally make a mistake or face a significant challenge and you remain above the negativity and stay optimistic.
We can guarantee that you will face both of these challenges at some point in your journey. The path that will ultimately lead you to a strong and sustainable businesses will be like nothing else you’ve ever experienced because there are no guarantees of your ultimate success. The only thing you can do is to remain flexible, be quick to pivot or adapt, and if at first you don’t succeed, to try and try again until you do.